Tuesday, March 26, 2013


The second illustration in my Women of Conan series.


Next up, my favorite, Valeria!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Red Sonja

Inspired by Rather Gamey's post last Thursday I worked up a Sonja illo myself. I think I'm going to work on one each week.  Current theme, Women of Conan!

Red Sonja
Next up...Belit!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Leather Hip Quiver

UPDATE:  Apparently this posted with me NOT having finishing all the text.  So sad.  You'd think after all this time I'd know how Blogger works.  That's what I get for trying to cram this in before an early morning meeting.  Anyway, here's the finished post.

A couple of weeks ago I posted about one of my first leather projects, an archery arm guard.  Since then, I've moved on to a much more complicated project, the Hip Quiver. Below is the step by step process, though it's not quite a tutorial, you'll get a good idea of what goes into making something like this.  Keep in mind, this is my third project.  There's bound to be a few mistakes that a more experienced leather-crafter may find, and if so, please feel free to point them out.  The biggest strides are made through your mistakes!

So, before we begin, let's take a quick look at my work station.  What you see here are some various tools and blades, tooling stamps, dyes, granite slab and hammer for tooling.  Most of this you'll see in use.

I cut the pattern from veg tanned leather.  The veg tanned leather is used for tooling and stamping.  The pattern itself was taken from a Tandy Leather design.

The first thing I did was 'case' the leather.  That's where you dampen the leather to make it pliable and soft for shaping and tooling.

 The leather soaks up the water and takes on a darker tone (left).  As the water soaks into the leather the tone comes back to it's natural state.

 With the leather cool to the touch it's ready to add the design.  With a pattern I created and a stylus I trace over the lines leaving an impression in the damp leather.

With the pattern 'impressed' into the leather, you polish your swivel knife...

...and begin cutting into the leather.  Working with the swivel knife take a bit of practice.  My initial attempts were pretty dismal but keeping at it, it didn't take too long to get the hang of working with the tool.  By long I mean cutting though a lot of leather scraps to get the control of the knife.

With the soft leather, the swivel knife just slides through it like butter.  I continued cutting though the initial impressions until I was satisfied.

 I next added some textured stamping around the borders.  Stamping is another element that takes a little while to get the hang of.  I thought I took pictures of the process but apparently I didn't.  You take a stamping tool, place it on the leather and give it a whack with the hammer.  With textures and bevels the trick is to get smooth transitions by 'walking' the tool as you hit it.  THAT took a while to get some control over. 

 With the cutting and stamping completed, I let the leather dry around a tube to give it the shape I needed.

Leather Hip Quiver
 The next step was to begin dying the leather.  I gave the quiver a natural brown coat the dyed the borders in black.  You'll notice I also punched some holes for the stitching as well as some decorative studs to be added later.

Some of the elements, such as the cut out owl and the vines had to be dyed using a brush.

 At this point I also created the belt loop with the same methods I mentioned above. All holes punched as well.
With all the dying finished, I applied a finishing coat.  I had a little problem with the  two layers of dye (black on brown) rubbing off so I'm not sure about how best to apply the dye in the manner I was going for.  This will need a little more research on my part.

I began adding the various pieces of hardware.

With all that completed, I began the process of stitching it all together.  The plan was to stitch the belt loop portion onto the quiver itself but I ran into some problems with that.  I don't have a picture of the mess that created, sorry about that. 

Leather Hip Quiver

So I ended up using studs to connect the two pieces together.  So some of the stitching is more decorative and less functional than I had planned.  I'm still satisfied with going this route.

So finally I added the base with a small block of wood and a piece of leather, both of which I dyed the interior color (mahogany).

I then tacked the leather and wood base to the bottom of the quiver and that pretty much wrapped it up.

Below are the finished pictures.

Leather Hip Quiver

Leather Hip Quiver

Leather Hip Quiver

Final thoughts....

Overall I'm pretty happy with the way this turned out.  There are a few 'errors', if you want to call them that, with some of the stitching and I'll alter my technique on future projects.  That mostly involved tying off the threads.  The pattern itself turns out to be a bit bulky for my taste and I would end up 'slimming' this down if I were ever to make another hip quiver like this.  It was a pretty big project and took a bit longer that I had anticipated but a great learning process as well.  Though I'm happy with the way the dye job came out it's not  100% what I was going for. I'll have to do a little more research and experiments on adding multiple coats of different color dye -  maybe that's not the best way to do that, but we'll see.  I have some ideas on how to improve what I did here.

I'll be testing the quiver and arm guard out this weekend, putting it through actual use.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Threads: Your Mutant Future Prelude

Most of us old school gamers grew up during the final decade of the cold war.  With Ronald Raygun's Hollywood style of politics towards the Soviet Union in it's final throws, us kids had at our disposal not only D&D but thrilling post apocalyptic visions of Mad Max, Thundar the Barbarian and Judge Dredd.

The end of the world didn't seem so bad and fit our fantasy filled brains with mutants and magic and the ruins of humanity's society.

But the reality, no doubt, would have been much more grim than that and I think we all knew that.

Or would it be...?

In the mid-eighties, both here in the states and in Great Britian, the powers that be released two movies aimed to show the horrors of a nuclear war; the American television drama called "The Day After" and the BBC drama called "Threads".

I'll briefly talk about The Day After first then get in to the BBC's more disturbing Threads. (some great additional commentary on The Day After can be found here).

In America, radiation sickness isn't too bad.
In The Day After, you get the star studded cast of Jason Robards, JoBeth Williams, John Lithgow, and Steve Guttenburg living their lives before and after a nuclear attack in Lawrence Kansas.  The TV movie was hyped up to be a horrifying look at the affects of a nuclear war with parental discretion advised.

Perhaps it was horrifying.  But having grown up playing war games and fantasy rpgs and reading comics, I knew the affects to be much more dramatic than a few Hollywood stars loosing their hair due to radiation sickness.  I wasn't impressed at the time and felt it was a sugar coated, over expositioned version of the realities of a nuclear war so as not to strike any real fear into the populous, but only to get them to chat about seeing the movie around the water cooler for a day or two but being a catalyst for no real change.

The last shot in The Day After as America doesn't
loose it's humanity.
What do you expect from the country that brought you Duck and Cover?  In fact, the movie has only moved a few steps from the Duck and Cover days.  The whole things come off as a disaster movie and, IMHO, melodramatic and a bit lacking.

To their credit, the producers display a disclaimer after the film that says that things will actually be much worse than those depicted.  So why not show the worst?

That was left to the BBC.

Now Threads on the other-hand...

If you want to see a provocative, disturbing realistic portrait of a nuclear war I urge you to check out this film from the BBC released roughly during the same time as the US version.

There were no big stars (at least that Americans would recognize), or doctors or heroes.  Threads portrays just regular folks going about their seemingly mundane lives as political forces outside their control bring the world to destruction, all of which gave an incredible foundation of normalcy which the every-man can connect with.  The viewer can place themselves into any one of these characters plus with it's almost documentary feel gives the whole thing a great sense of non-hyped realism.  As in the American The Day After, the first hour counts down to d-day.

Starving survivors acting like it's a Zombie Walk
The attack itself is brutal and horrific but that would just be the start and the city of Sheffield, where the story takes place, takes a direct hit.  No punch is held back in the depiction of the immediate aftermath; the firestorm and death and suffering.  It is not a glossed over depiction of the after-affects of a nuclear war.  The suffering is depicted as quite real, both physical and especially psychological. And as the days and weeks go by things only get worse and more barbaric as the threads of society and humanity break down.  In fact, almost the entire second hour of the movie is depicted without dialogue - a stark contrast to the American spoon-fed version of the aftermath.

But what does this all have to do with a prelude to a Mutant Future (Gamma World) game?

Well, keep reading.....


I urge you to watch the movie Threads before reading further.

Only one character that we meet in the beginning of Threads survives to carry us through to the many years after the war.

The woman Ruth, who becomes pregnant at the beginning of the story carries her baby to term in the months after the war.  Though the brief narration mentions the dismal future of having a successful birth, Ruth manages to birth her baby on her own in a shed while a barking dog watches.

Here is where the Mutant Future begins...

The contents of the basket of this street vendor contains
literal rats-on-a-stick.
In the film, after the birth, ten years pass and the immediate affects of the war lessen.  The population of Britain is down to per-medieval levels.  Agriculture, though attempting to make a comeback is still a pretty dismal prospect, but some folks are tilling the soil. It is here that Ruth succumbs  to 10 years of radiation poisoning leaving her daughter of 10 to fend on her own.  There is a scene where this girl and other children born after the war are being educated by a television with a children's program on video tape while an old crone watches on.

Eventually leaving this small society, this girl is on her own.  Scrounging and scavenging she eventually hooks up with two other boys possibly also born after the war.  A new generation born into this Mutant Future / Gamma World.  Together they loot the ruins for food but one of them is shot as a looter.  The girl and one boy escape.  The girl, now thirteen, becomes pregnant from the surviving boy and eventually is on her own again.  In labor, she finds shelter in some broken down 'medical center' where some old woman is helping a sick dying man.  It is here that the girl gives birth.  The 'nurse' gives the wrapped baby to the young girl and as this girl removes the swaths to view the face of her baby she begins to scream (the film ends in a freeze frame before the scream is actually heard).

This last moment is where we can be thrust into the beginnings of our post-apocalyptic game.  You initially think that the baby may be still-born but with the look on the mother's face at the very end tends to push the thought that the baby is indeed alive but in some horrible mutant state.  Realistically, I am sure this Mutant baby would either eventually die or live a pretty horrible brutal life, but in games terms, using Threads and a prelude to a post-apocalyptic game, you get the beginnings of a mutant race.

Now I don't mean to make lite of an incredibly serious subject.  I was shocked and moved by this movie as a whole, even thirty years after it was made but this is what our games represent.  Though Gamma World is just a fantasy RPG it's foundation is based on some pretty grim and brutal realities as this movie shows.  Why not explore that, feel that and make it part of your game.  It will definitely set a realistic foundation to a fantastical game setting.

Anyways, just thought I'd share...

A hopeless mutant character or a role playing opportunity?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Tell That Special Gamer How Much You Care

Face it, women gamers are hot!  So why don't you tell that special gamer how hot you think she really is with this awesome Save vs Cute tee-shirt or tank top.  Who needs a Charm Person spell when you hand her one of these?  You'll definitely get a +1 when you tell her she's got an 18 Charisma score with a Save vs Cute shirt from IndieOnly!  Don't delay your action!  Gain initiative now!

Save vs Cute Tee-shirt

All you Grognards know we're not getting any younger, what, with kids and grand-kids.  Get them gaming early with these Charisma 18 with these baby onesies and toddler-tees!  Nothing says "I love you, let's game someday" than one of these fantastic halfling sized 100% cotton inventory items!


Monday, March 4, 2013

Cat Fight!

Continuing yet more posts that don't have anything to do with gaming or RPGs...with the Cat-women of Bat-man.